Feb 26, 2013

Petticoat Junction

Speaking of teenage daughters, exactly ten years before One Day at a Time, my parents were insisting that my brother and I watch Petticoat Junction (1963-1970) every week.  By the time we got our own portable black-and-white tv for our attic bedroom, it was off the air.  Not that it would have mattered -- there were no other choices except a romantic comedy and the last half of NBC Tuesday Night at the Movies.

The hillbilly comedies that filled CBS's schedule in the 1960s -- The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Gomer Pyle, The Andy Griffith Show -- were low on both beefcake and bonding, but Petticoat Junction was by far the most arid of the lot.  What do you expect from a program named after ladies' undergarments, set in a town called Hooterville?  With a opening shot features the three teenage daughters of widowed Kate Bradly swimming in the town's water tower?  With a theme song pushing the pulchritude as the main reason for visiting: "Lots of curves, you bet -- even more when you get to the Junction"?

There were occasional cute plotlines, such as when bookish Bobbie Jo fancies herself a beatnik, but no same-sex romances.  Actually no male in the town under the age of 80, until cropduster Steve Elliot (Mike Minor, left) crashed his plane and was stranded in Hooterville forever. (In this photo, he looks like he's bulge-rearranging, but he really isn't.)

Steve immediately took to Kate's youngest daughter, Billie Jo -- you can find hardly a single screencap without them holding hands or kissing -- and the heteroromance was off and running.

I distinctly remember an episode where Steve appears shirtless -- he had a smooth, tanned chest -- but now I can't find it.  Maybe Mike Minor took off some clothes after Petticoat, during his career as a soap opera hunk, or on The Millionnaire (1978), where he appeared alongside the  Hudson Brothers.

But even Petticoat Junction offered two glimmers of interest to the assiduous eye of a beefcake and bonding-starved preteen.

1. In spite of the lack of nudity, Steve could fill out a fraternity sweater, and all eyes were drawn to the tightness of his slacks.  He was tall, lanky, and handsome, with expressive eyes and big hands, a cool fantasy boyfriend.

2. Bobbie Joe (Pat Woodell, Lori Saunders) was quiet, intellectual, and not usually interested in boys.  Occasionally she accepted a boys' attention to get something she wanted, but she most definitely preferred the company of her coterie of female friends.  Not as evocative as a boy who didn't like girls, but still, both gay boys and girls could find her an ally.